17 April 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The development of a new Co Museum premises, a vision for which was outlined at Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council, is one of the most important projects for the enhancement of our county currently in preparation.

Spending on cultural and artistic initiatives, particularly at a time when the privations of recession are still being experienced by many despite the insistence of Government and some economic commentators that the country is in recovery mode, carries with it an almost apologetic air.

But to regard investment in this area as inevitably luxury rather than necessity is to buy in to an elitist view of the humanities that is at best anachronistic, at worst prejudicial.

Since its establishment a little over 40 years ago, Monaghan’s Museum has been to the local forefront of the more general societal trend that has dismantled the last of the proprietorial boundaries once demarcating the country of historical appreciation as the terrain of the educationally privileged.

The language of history, particularly local history, is vernacular and Monaghan people’s desire to rediscover and become articulate in its vocabulary has been greatly facilitated by the work our Co Museum has done, not merely through its regular exhibitions but by its programmes of engagement with schools and other dimensions of the community. Its contribution to reuniting us with our own past and opening up avenues for wider historical journey has greatly enriched the fabric of Monaghan life.

That this accomplishment has been achieved without ever having premises adequate to place a fully representative section of its artefacts on display to the public is, as Co Council Cathaoirleach Pádraig McNally remarked on Monday, testament to the professionalism of its staff.

That the museum has been constrained in a more imaginative sense from expanding the boundaries of its traditionally perceived function as a venue for exhibitions and a repository for historical material was made patent in the thematic ambition its curator Liam Bradley outlined for its new home on Monday.

This focused on the physical and spiritual boundary that has defined the life of all who have lived in this part of our island over the span of recent millennia – that mythical as well as material construction of defence and definition that we have grown to describe with respectful capitalisation as ‘the Border’.

The Border has cast its shadow over our social interaction, our politics, our religion, our disbursement of population, our economy and the workings of our minds and hearts in a very profound way that distinguishes us as a people.

That shadow has too often, particularly in periods of internecine strife, been an occluding one, and although our poets and our politicians have strived in their different ways to shed clarity on all its implications, a focused study of the diverse facets of life in the Border region has thus far eluded the grasp of statesman and scribe alike.

Such a study is what the new Monaghan Museum would focus upon – a subject, its curator pointed out, that has not been presented anywhere else on the island in a museum context.

This ambition would seem to tailor the project particularly well for the dimension of the European PEACE IV programme that has been targeted as its funding source.

It also gives substance to its aspiration to become a facility that would generate considerable tourism traffic and thereby contribute significantly to the local economy.

The vision is distinctive, with components of material benefit as well as cultural enhancement that we are confident would win the backing of the majority of Co Monaghan people.

Whether it wins the approval of those in charge of Europe’s purse-strings remains to be seen, and there are challenges to be overcome in relation to the identification of a suitable site and the evolution of a sustainable design in what are tight constraints of time and study budget.

The approval for study completion given by Monaghan Co Council on Monday will at least speed the vision on its way – and perhaps there is a valuable friend in court at the disposal of the project in the form of Co Monaghan’s MEP Matt Carthy, who is well placed, and no doubt will be favourably disposed, to assisting the project’s pathfinding through the legendarily labyrinthine corridors of the European edifice!

Far from being a luxury acquisition, the realisation of the exciting vision outlined for the new Monaghan Museum would supply a crucial necessity for a county seeking to develop its tourism product and find a vehicle for full expression of its rich and complex history.


The suspicion that political influence has been brought to bear in order to reframe the plans for the Grid West and Grid Link electricity infrastructure projects in a manner that will mitigate their impact on the landscape – and becalm the tide of public opposition to their realisation – was an element in Monday’s Co Council discussion of the third EirGrid development of this type, the controversial north-south interconnector, that emerged as deeply troubling.

The fact that EirGrid are adhering to their intention to realise the north-south development through the use of
overhead pylons, and have ruled out the alternative technological approaches that they have deemed applicable to their other projects, will, whether political pressure was successfully exerted in other parts of the country or not, harden the mood of opposition that will be given full expression at next Monday night’s meeting on the issue in Aughnamullen organised by the Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee.

Oireachtas members, particularly those who wear the livery of Government, who deign to accept the invitation to attend, will no doubt be interrogated closely on the contents of EirGrid’s recently published draft strategy on future energy transmission projects and the interpretations that its contents are open to.

However, this would seem an occasion best served by the vocabulary of persuasion rather than polemic.
The option of using new technology to increase the capacity of existing electricity lines, applicable in other parts of the country, is not viable along the route of the north-south project as no established infrastructure of relevance is in place.

But surely the option of undergrounding that those active in the local campaign against the deployment of pylons have been urging on EirGrid takes on renewed relevance as an alternative approach for this part of the country in light of the amendments to the plans elsewhere?

Righteous anger, fuelled by the inescapable perception of disparity of esteem, will undoubtedly be a keynote at next Monday night’s important meeting – but if its expenditure alone is the only outcome of the proceedings, an important opportunity will be missed.

Some space should be cleared for persuasion of the national and indeed local politicians in attendance to form a one-voice lobby to prevail upon Energy Minister Alex White and the Joint Oireachtas Committee with responsibility in this area to insist on a fresh evaluation of the undergrounding alternative before EirGrid are permitted to submit their fresh planning application for the north-south development to An Bord Pleanala in the coming weeks.

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